McIlroy, Quiros Tied For Lead

April 07, 2011

McIlroy shot an opening 63 at last year's British Open.

AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) -- Rory McIlroy teed off in the morning and put up a score for everyone to chase at the Masters. Then, after grabbing some lunch, he plopped down in front of the television to see if anyone could catch him.

No one did -- until a long-hitting Spaniard in the last group of the day.

Alvaro Quiros, who had never shot better than 75 in two previous Masters, birdied the final two holes under darkening skies to match McIlroy with a 7-under 65 on Thursday.

There were plenty of red numbers on the board, the golfers able to attack the venerable course on a warm, sunny day with only a slight hint of a breeze.

South Koreans Y.E. Yang and K.J. Choi were two shots back at 67. Nine other players were in the 60s. Defending champ Phil Mickelson scrambled for a 70, and Tiger Woods was within striking distance at 71.

McIlroy, a 21-year-old from Northern Ireland, is used to contending in the majors, finishing third at last year's British Open and PGA Championship. He also helped Europe reclaim the Ryder Cup. Now, he's the youngest first-round leader in Masters history after a bogey-free round.

"I trusted everything," McIlroy said. "I trusted where I wanted to hit the ball. That's the key around here. With some of these pins, you can get tentative and try to guide it in there. You just have to pick your targets and trust your swing. I was very happy with the way I did that."

McIlroy nearly duplicated his dynamic start at last year's British Open, where he started with a 63. The next day at St. Andrews, in a howling wind that actually forced a brief delay, he slumped to an 80.

He shouldn't face those conditions in Georgia, where the forecast calls for warm, sunny weather through the weekend. Whatever happens, he feels better prepared to deal with any adversity.

"At the time, it was very disappointing," McIlroy said, referring to his second-round collapse at St. Andrews. "But looking back, it was probably very valuable in my progression as a golfer."

Quiros was able to overpower Augusta National with his strength off the tee, but it was the putter that kept him in the game. After driving behind some trees at No. 14, and going even deeper when his next shot struck a limb, he rolled in a 20-foot putt to salvage bogey.

He made a 25-footer for birdie at the 17th, then made things a bit easier at the final hole by sticking his approach shot right behind the flag. He rolled in the short birdie putt and was tied for the lead at a place where he's never even made it to the weekend.

"It's time to do it, isn't it?" Quiros joked. "Finally, I played well."

Even though he's known for his booming drives, the Spaniard knew which club deserved most of the credit.

"I holed putts," he said. "Obviously, the best club in my bag was the putter."